A baker turned bricklayer is about to celebrate his 80th birthday and mark 60 years working for one of Cumbria’s best known construction firms.
Despite his landmark birthday on June 16, Billy Dixon says he has no plans to hang up his trowel and steel toe-capped boots just yet. He loves his work with McKnight & Son Builders too much.
After leaving Caldewgate School, Billy served his time as an apprentice baker at a factory in Newtown Road but soon discovered the early starts were spoiling his social life.
“I was working at Robertson’s and started at two in the morning to put the bread on for the day,” he said.
“But all my mates were at the Cosmo dance hall and I didn’t like to miss out.”
He was friends with Bob McKnight and his late wife Anne, who founded McKnight & Son Builders in 1965, and was offered some labouring shifts.
He quickly proved himself as a hard worker who could turn his hand to anything and trained on the job as a bricklayer.
Over the years, he’s been involved in hundreds of projects, from home extensions to full house builds, as well as bespoke building work in places like the historic Farlam Hall near Brampton.
He’s been working at the country house hotel for three years on a £1.5 million transformation which has seen him build everything from an impressive perimeter wall to bridges over the estate’s lake and beck.
Billy said: “I do enjoy it, I wouldn’t go to work now if I didn’t. I look forward to going in, though I do still bake too. I’m not one for sitting about.”
Billy lives at Gosforth Road, Carlisle, with his wife Christine, and the couple have one daughter, Mandy, who is Matron for an intensive care hospital in London.
McKnight and Son are one of the biggest property companies in and around Carlisle.
They’ve built The Points, an exclusive development close to Carlisle Racecourse, as well as many student housing, commercial and luxury home projects.
Wayne McKnight, managing director of McKnight & Son, says Billy has always been part of his life, at home and at work.
“He was the one we used to call ‘Uncle Billy’,” he said. “He’s always been part of the family.
“At work, he’s the perfect employee and whoever is lucky to work with him usually gets to taste some of his delicious homemade bakes.
“You never have to go back to anything he’s built. He’s conscientious and committed 100 percent. Everybody respects him for what he does and he’s faster than a lot of the young lads. He just doesn’t stop.”